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South Florida PBS uses cute turtles and new knowledge to boost social media presence
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The Digital Immersion Project, developed by PBS Digital with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is a unique opportunity that mixes in-depth training, hands-on workshops, and collaborative mentorship to improve overall expertise in digital strategies and tactics. The professional development program also focuses on strategic and organizational tactics, with the selected participants being able to draw on the project’s learnings and a national network of public media contacts to further digital success at the local level. 

2017 was the first year for the project, bringing together 25 public television professionals from all around the country. The participants first gathered at TechCon in Las Vegas this past April, and have been working individually, in topical cohorts, and with mentors ever since. The first iteration of the project will complete at the end of October 2017.

All year long, each participant has been working on a Digital Strategy exercise that takes the project’s learnings and maps them to the station’s goals, complete with tactics and deliverables. We are featuring just a few of these success stories for their system peers to learn from and gain a little inspiration. 

South Florida PBS multimedia producer Charlotte Cushing focused on customizing and refreshing the station's digital content for her experience with the project. Check out a brief interview with her below!


How did you choose what you wanted to focus on?

As an employee of South Florida PBS, I’m fortunate that our station already invests in digital resources, and is committed to creating digital content. However, for all the work we put into our online presence, we sometimes struggle to have an engaged audience. I realized that before we could have audience engagement though, we first needed to develop an audience that was interested in, and ready to interact with our content. As a result, for the Digital Immersion project, I decided to work on developing our audience by customizing our original digital content. 

What steps did you take towards achieving your goal, or getting close to it?

At the station, the first steps we took towards developing an audience was researching what content our current audience wants to see, and where they want to see it. We did this research by sending out a survey via social media and email, analyzing our Facebook analytics, and joining Crowd Tangle to mine their extensive data about what content works best on each platform.  We used this information to guide us in selecting which digital stories to film. After that we started taking the digital content we were already producing, and started customizing it for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  Before, we were producing one digital video every other week for Facebook. Now in addition to that, we’re also creating a picture with a quote for Twitter and Instagram, an accompanying video with text on screen for Instagram and Facebook, and gifs for Twitter and Instagram, all from the original footage. The hope is that creating original content designed for specific platforms will allow us to be more successful on each platform, and gain new audiences on them. Finally, we’re currently working on trying to get new audiences to see our content, and retaining them. We’re now cross posting our content on other pages, pitching stories to larger PBS pages like Rewire or Next Avenue, and selecting story topics that already had followers and interest.  As we get more stories published, we’ll continue to analyze what is working best, and replicate it with similar content. 

For more examples of the content that Charlotte has been creating for the project, check out this video on Facebook, this GIF, and this Instagram post

What are your most valuable lessons from this process?

I think the most important thing I learned was that there’s not a specific formula for audience development. You can’t do x, y, and z and then automatically get 20 new followers. The process is full of trial and error as you try to figure out what works best for your account. Once you eventually find the strategies that are successful for you, just keep repeating them. That ties into another lesson I learned, which is that this is really a long-term effort. Before seeing results, you need to lay the groundwork, and find out the right formula for your station. Only after doing that, and repeating the formula multiple times, will you see growth and changes. 

How will your station benefit from your participation in the project?

I think South Florida PBS will benefit from this process because it’s something that we hope to replicate across our other social media pages. Most of our local productions have their own social media accounts that are run independently of our station’s accounts. By going through this process with our station’s pages, I hope to generate guidelines and strategies that our local productions can follow to build their own audiences up.